April 18, 2024

Beyond the airport

David McNeill outlines why travel managers need a new approach to ground transportation in a post-Covid world

The pandemic has changed the way businesses approach employee mobility and its effect will continue in the future even as and when employees go back to working in offices again.

The dramatic reduction in overseas business trips, as governments placed restrictions on international travel, puts ground transport in the spotlight. Even the C-suite is paying closer attention to how people move around because of health and safety risks.

Travel managers and buyers who thought of airport car hire as a secondary requirement or as a tag-on to flights could find this difficult. Businesses are challenging travel managers to deliver during a time of crisis and they need to ensure they retain a firm hand on how essential employees travel.

This is matched by a heightened focus on sustainability as policymakers tighten climate targets. Travel managers need to demonstrate that essential trips are carried out as sustainably as possible.

Some employees still need to travel for work, even during quarantines and lockdowns. Do travel managers have the right solutions in place to support them when an essential trip starts and ends from home?

Managing and supporting employee mobility beyond airport car hire requires a different approach and there is a wide range of additional travel choices and requirements that need to be managed.

Even now, businesses may need vehicles for cross-border European travel to keep operating, or for the first as well as last mile of a longer trip, or for WFH employees – which may even become the norm post-Covid – to keep for longer than ever to ensure access to mobility.

With safety concerns over public transport, taxis and rideshares – concerns which may last for some time – many employees could default to using their own ‘grey fleet’ car for work-related travel from home, especially if company travel policies don’t cover this area of mobility.

However, the grey fleet is a huge risk for businesses. It’s often more expensive than they think – and the costs are hidden – as well as putting employees into cars that are usually older, have higher emissions and with less modern safety equipment. Drivers need to have the right business-use insurance as well. It all needs to be controlled.

Employees not eligible for a company car may need long-term rentals so they can easily make multiple trips over a period of time to different sites, especially if they cannot jump in and out of taxis or rideshares.

Meanwhile, other employees might be best served by using a car club, or a Mobility-as-a-Service solution, or by using a nearby rental branch instead of having to travel to their nearest airport to pick up a car.

Many travel managers will now have to learn fleet management skills to keep track of all these challenges. They need technology to analyse how their people are currently travelling by car and consultative guidance on how they could do it better and more efficiently.

But most importantly, travel managers can benefit by understanding exactly how, why and where people are now travelling for essential work and where car hire fits into that picture. Rental is no longer just a supplementary service to business travel: right now, with the pandemic still raging, it’s the core of business travel.

David McNeill is AVP Global Corporate Sales EMEA at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental.